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“Bonzai the Micro Ninja”

2017 Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS in Candy Plasma Blue

A poor cell phone photo of my new to me but used 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS at the dealership.

I got the idea for getting a commuter bike while vacationing in Sarasota, FL over Christmas. I saw a cool little newer Honda Grom, and the synapses started firing. A little commuter bike might be just the thing to keep the mileage down on my Miata. A little research showed the Grom was modern enough that it not only had electronic fuel injection (no more tickling the choke to get the bike started!), but was available with Antilock Braking System (ABS). I’d nearly gone down a couple of times due to the front wheel locking up braking on wet pavement, so that was a welcome feature.

A good friend of mine suggested I also look at the Kawasaki Z125. It was  a very similar bike, but a bit less expensive. I wasn’t that impressed, but having ridden Hondas since 1974 (1972 Honda 350-Four, 1975 Honda 400-Four Supersport, 1980 Honda Goldwing Interstate, and 1999 Honda VT1100C3 Shadow Aero), I was open to try another brand’s offering. The dealer I visited (which shall remain nameless) wasn’t very eager to help. They had a brand new 2015 Honda CBR300R on the showroom floor on sale for a terrific price – $3099 – and a new bike warranty. However, tax, title, dealer prep, freight, and everything else they could throw at it raised the price by 50% – some deal! And out of my budget. 50% markup on a bike? Yeah, time to forget that dealer. However, the seed’s been planted that a 250-300 could be had for about the same price as a Grom, and the extra displacement would erase my fears that a 125cc bike might not be able to keep up with traffic on my commute. A 125 probably could, but there was a lot less doubt a 250+cc bike would have problems. I had no problems riding my father’s early 70s Honda CB175 from Berkeley to Cazadero Music Camp, going up what’s now I-580 (then State Route 17), across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, up US-101 to Santa Rosa, then across to Guerneville (back when it was pronounced Gurn-EE- vill), the Russian River valley, and finally Caz’. Yes, a 175, even an old anemic 175, is plenty, really.

A used bike avoids dealer prep and freight fees, so I scoured Cycletrader and my local Craigslist. It’s there where I found “Bonzai the Micro Ninja” for sale at a nearby Kawasaki dealer. She’s a 2017 model (current year – the 2018s will be released in the US in March as a 400cc model), but with 2,000 miles on her. She also has ABS. The only thing separating this bike from the higher tier KRT (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Winter Test Edition Ninja 300s is the graphics, which is fine by me. I believe 2017 is  the only model year the Candy Pearl Blue color was made, so in my mind, this is at least equally distinctive as those special editions. But as I frequently point out, when you buy used, you generally have to compromise with what’s available, rather than what can be ordered. I may have chosen white had I ordered a new bike, but no, I like this blue. Photos don’t do it justice. I got a great bike at a great price.

The bike will strictly be used for commuting. The weekends are made for the Miata, where I can share the joys of Florida’s back roads with my wife, Anna. Although Anna likes to ride pillion, swinging a leg over a bike is no longer an option (and Bonzai’s pillion isn’t nearly as comfortable as the Aero or Goldwing). Top down in the Miata is almost as good – better if you count not having to “dress for the fall” in Florida’s heat (sweating is more fun than bleeding), and wearing a heavy helmet on your head all day.

I’ll try to provide updates.

On This Day, In 1968…

The Northrop M2-F2 lifting body aircraft crash landed in what has, perhaps, become the most watched aircraft disaster thanks to the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man. But Amy Shira Teitel can tell the story much better than I can:

Here’s the famous introduction:

On This Day, In 1960

First production model of Project Mercury spacecraft was successfully launched from NASA Wallops Station to test escape, landing, and recovery systems. Known as the “beach abort” shot, the Mercury capsule reached 775 m before parachute landing and pickup by Marine helicopter returned it to Wallops’ hangar 17 minutes after launch.

On This Day, In 1989

STS-30 Landing

After waking up to the Beetle’s A Hard Day’s Night, the STS-30 crew landed the shuttle Atlantis at Edwards AFB in California. Minutes before landing, the runway had to be switched from 17 to 22 due to high crosswinds. The mission lasted a total of 4 days and 56 minutes.

The mission included launching the first U.S. planetary science mission launched since 1978, the Magellan probe toward Venus. It was the 4th shuttle launch since the Challenger Disaster and the first shuttle mission since the disaster to have a female astronaut on board (Mary Cleave, PhD, PE).

On This Day, In 1959

Dyna-Soar X-20 and it’s pilots

The US Air Force Aircraft Research and Design Center (ARDC) headquarters issued System Requirement 201, declaring the purpose of the Dyna-Soar vehicle was to determine the military potential of a boost-glide weapon system and provide research data on flight characteristics up to and including global flight. The Air Force disagreed with the position of the Secretary of Defence’s office that Dynasoar be limited to suborbital research flights.

On This Date, In 1968

Lunar landing research vehicle (LLRV) No. 1 crashed at Ellington Air Force Base, Tex. The pilot, astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, ejected after losing control of the vehicle, landing by parachute with minor injury (he bit his tongue hard enough to make it bleed). Estimated altitude of the LLRV at the time of ejection was 60 meters. LLRV No. 1, which had been on a standard training mission, was a total loss – estimated at $1.5 million. LLRV No. 2 would not begin flight status until the accident investigation had been completed and the cause determined (one of the thrusters failed).

On This Day, in 1961

First Mercury Launch

On this day, in 1961, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., made the first United States manned space flight in a Mercury spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral atop the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) vehicle. “Freedom 7” completed the suborbital, ballistic flight without incident in this historical first mission of NASA’s Project Mercury.

O’Neil’s Country Buffet

Lunch with Gail and Jim Sparks 4-30-2016

Route by Jim Sparks

Jim Sparks and I had a wonderful day driving our MX-5s (“Miata” to most) for a lunch at O’Neal’s Country Buffet in Thomasville, GA. Evidently, Jim had invited several First Coast Miata Club members, but I was the only one to accept. It was about twice as long as a normal club ride, so that was probably a factor. They’re loss – it was a fantastic ride! Jim brought his wife Gail with him, and of course, I was joined by my wife, Anna.

Jim’s got a way with planning routes, thanks to many years involvement with motorcycle clubs. No, not the 1% clubs. Not a biker – a motorcyclist. He knows the area like nobody else I’ve met in the 20 years I’ve lived in Jacksonville. I’m always amazed at the countryside Jim takes us through.

So we met yesterday in Whitehouse, FL. and set out just after 9:30 AM, heading west on US-90. A CSX freight train entering Baldwin Yard from Callahan blocked our path, and didn’t look to be in any hurry. Thinking fast, Jim quickly rerouted us adding about 20 miles to his original plan. Beats sitting in the car watching autoracks creep by one by one for 20 minutes!

We saw plenty of wildlife. A lot of road kill with buzzards trying to clean up the mess, but we also got to see two Toms (make turkeys) facing each other off in the middle of the road vying for the rights to a nearby hen. We also got to see a coyote run across the road. I had no idea coyotes were in this part of Georgia. There was an abundance of roadside wildflowers, with buttercups and some sort of blue/purple flower I couldn’t identify.

Lunch was fantastic. Well worth the drive. Cost was moderate, and the food was fresh, even for our late lunch. And why not? There was a farmer’s market right next door! We topped off our lunch with home made Cinnamon rolls, and then headed to the farmers market to walk off our lunch and get some fresh fruit and vegetables to bring home.

We took a similar route home, but took Dixie Road out of Thomasville through the towns of Boston (which looks to have a very quaint historical district) and Dixie, both just south of US Route 84. Worth coming back for, IMHO. Here’s the first part of our return trip:

Return Trip 4-30-2016Return Route by Jim Sparks.

That put us into Welborn, FL for a pitstop. From here, there were a few back roads into Lake City, then down US-90 until we hit I-10 for a quick dash back to Jacksonville to beat the rain. I peeled off I-10 taking FL 23 – the “outer beltway” under construction, to head home. Jim and I exchanged waves and a few friendly chirps from our horns as I peeled off I-10 as he continued on into town.

Anna and I had a lot of fun. Not only all these wonder full back roads, great food, wonderful cars to drive them, but we sincerely enjoyed Gail and Jim’s company on  this trip.

For Sale: Key Imports HO scale Alco C-415

In 1988, Key Imports brought us this Alco C-415 in HO scale. Made by FM models in Korea, it’s been a prized locomotive for Southern Pacific modelers.

I bought a pair of SP Key C-415s when they were new in 1988 for about $260 each. The seller is correct that these are great running units; I’ve used the pair of them for heavy switching in the shows at our club every year since then. They’re a pleasure to operate. – John Rodgers, Southern Pacific Railroad List (Yahoo Group), 14. August 2006

This model is factory painted. I added Kadee #5 couplers, and styrene in the numberboards, but I never got around to putting numbers in it. This model does not have DCC, but should be easy to install. There is no box – it was lost when I moved from California to Florida. I will pack appropriately for shipping.

Asking $250, shipped within the US by USPS Priority Flat Rate. Contact me for PayPal information.

Horn upgrade for the MX-5 (Miata)

The stock horn on the MX-5 has a rather pathetic “meep meep” sound similar to the old Road Runner cartoon character. Now, I’m a fan of the Road Runner – it was a childhood favorite of mine, but on a car? To steal from the old motorcycle maxim, “loud horns save lives.” The louder the better, unless you’re one of those who love to scare people with your locomotive duty air horns. Nathan P3 anyone, for that classic Southern Pacific sound? Not in my neighborhood, please. Clay County Sheriffs are on the lookout, you, for your black F-150 4×4. You know who you are. Cut it out!

These Hella Supertones are a very popular upgrade for MX-5/Miata owners, as well as Subaru tuners.

However, the horn is also used by the car’s alarm system. I didn’t want the Supertones to blast in my neighborhood. Especially not late at night. So the solution is actually quite simple. This article by Tim Moran got me thinking. However, his horns needed a lot more power. The Supertones run just fine on the MX-5s stock 15 Amp circuit, but Tim’s draw quite a bit more. So, I could save one relay.Horn Circuit Diagram

With the ignition off, the horn circuit, including the alarm system, activates the stock horn. With the ignition on, the relay reroutes power to the Supertone horns. Now, most people just replace the stock horn, which is fine. I think I went overboard. The numbers refer to the pin numbers on a Bosch Automotive type relay:

Bosch Automotive Type Relay

The IGN (ignition on) source is the same I used for my Fog Lamp Upgrades for the Mazda MX-5 (Miata).  The instructions are summarized here. The actual connection is shown here:

IGN power source. When the ignition is on, this point has power that can be used to trigger other circuits. This is deep in the fuse box.